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Eamonn

Do away with advancement?

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gwd-scouter,

Wish I could say that the statement came from me!

But I stole it from Denzel Washington, who said it came from his mother..

Eamonn.

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Well, over the past few months we have had several scouts join our troop because they were not getting advancement support/opportunities with their previous units. They were all 13-14 year old Tenderfoot scouts looking for the challenges and recognitions that advancement can offer. In talking with them, the decision certainly sounded like it was theirs and not their parents. Go figure.

 

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The goal of education is to learn. It is not to get "good grades." The goal of Scouting is to teach character, civics and personal fitness. It is not to "get Eagle."

 

That said, grades for some are great motivators for some students. Rank/advancement is a great motivator for some Scouts. Look at Scouts who have earned Eagle. Does their participation drop off? If so, these were the boys who were motivated to "get Eagle" by their parents, self or others. I've asked Scouts during a Scoutmaster cnference a very simple question. Why are you in Scouting? Most of the Scouts past the age of 13 have replied to "get Eagle" (not earn mind you). I then ask, "Why do you want to earn Eagle?" and the reply by the vast majority is for college. I find that very sad. Yes, I wouldn't be to disheartened if these boys left the program. But I've also seen boys very proud to earn 2nd Class and go through their books looking to see what they have left to do to earn Eagle.

 

My own son earned Life fairly rapidly - at age 12 after about a year and a half of boy Scouts. He earned his Eagle five year later after serving as SPL in the troop numerous times, ASPL for his Jambo troop, trek lead at Double H, serving as troop guide for NYLT and later as SPL for NYLT, mentoring many other Scouts, etc. His only real complaint was that the dearth of his peers, other 16 & 17 year old Scouts in the troop. Now, did his parents push him to complete his Eagle project? Well his mother did! But the biggest influence, I think, was the exposure he had to other adult leaders, not in his troop, that he was exposed to encouraging him to earn the highest rank. His participation is not dropping off but I've not seen hide nor hair of the other three Scouts who earned Eagle in the troop this year. Of course, these boys parents all have really good reasons why their son can't make the meetings, outings, etc. :-)

 

FCFY is a valid goal for the troop. By that, I mean that a troop should offer a program such that all new Scouts should be able to easily earn 1st Class in the first year. Will they take advantage of it? Maybe so, maybe not but the unit should offer a program that makes 1st Class obtainable in the first year.

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Acco40 makes a very good point in that a troop can only offer opportunities for advancement - it's up to the scouts to take advantage of it.

 

Case in point - my troop scheduled a five mile hike at our September camping trip. I made it very clear to all the scouts who needed Second Class requirement 1b that this camping trip was their opportunity to earn that requirement. Turns out only 40% of the boys who needed 1b attended that campout. The boys that did attend had a lot of fun on that five mile hike and will advance to SC soon. The rest of them will have to wait to advance.

 

To me, advancement was the incentive to participate in the campout. I tell the scouts, you can't advance unless you go camping. It's up to them whether or not they participate and advance. I can only offer the opportunity to reach first class in one year. Whether they make it or not is up to the scout.

 

I will be happy if half of them make it to first class in a year.

 

 

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"Turns out only 40% of the boys who needed 1b attended that Campout. The boys that did attend had a lot of fun on that five mile hike and will advance to SC soon. The rest of them will have to wait to advance."

Look at this from another perspective!

Maybe just maybe 60% of the Scouts have no real interest in hiking and choose not to participate.

Maybe the goal of Second class isn't something that they feel is important to them right now or that they have ownership of?

A lot of what we do depends on "How we sell it"

Selling a hike to pass 1b is one thing, selling a hike to prepare for Philmont (Or some other special event that they want to do) might get better results.

I can't help thinking if I were a little Lad and Mr.SM gave me the choice of SC requirement 1b or getting ready to go to Philmont, I'd take Philmont!!

Eamonn.

 

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Wait a minute Eamonn, I think you may have something. Perhaps the issue isn't doing away with Advancement, it's about making Advancement relevant to the youth. Finding your way at night is no big issue if you have Garmin, and identifying plants and animals certainly won't get you many dates in todays world. Perhaps it is time to overhaul all the requirements. In a velcro world, perhaps knots arent near as important as they once were.

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"I know Kudu debates whether we even have the Patrol Method, but a 2d/3d order consequence of removing advancement would be eliminating youth leadership and youth-youth skill training."

 

If Leadership was not required for Advancement it would eliminate the constant turnover which undermines the Patrol Method with its natural youth-youth skill training.

 

The real problem with "Advancement" is that deep down in our hearts we don't really believe that outdoor Scoutcraft skills can teach Citizenship, Character, and Fitness.

 

Boys are designed to learn by doing things.

 

Scouting was designed to be a "doing things" alternative to indoor classroom learning.

 

What remains of the BSA Tenderfoot through First Class ("core") program is not that bad even though it is missing the important observation-interpretation skills (tracking & signaling -- the later should include the BSA's traditional sign language for the deaf requirements) and the most important test of a First Class Scout: The First Class Journey.

 

That being said, the only Fake Scouting requirements in the core program are: Tenderfoot requirement 10 (gym class); 2nd Class requirement 8 (DARE), 1st Class requirement 5 (Constitutional rights), and of course Scout Spirit and Boards of Review.

 

If your Scouts do not like Tenderfoot through First Class then either they don't really like the outdoors, or you are pushing too hard, and/or you have unqualified Scouts in Positions of Responsibility.

 

The real problem with Advancement is that Star through Eagle is mostly Fake Scouting. It lacks any required outdoor Scouting Journeys and replaces them with Positions of Responsibility and the required schoolwork Merit Badges including Citizenship, Communications, Environmental Science, Family Life, Personal Fitness, and Personal Management.

 

We don't believe that Scoutcraft Journeys are the true test of mental and physical Fitness so we replace them with "Personal Fitness" requirements that are easier for sedentary adults to enforce.

 

We don't really believe that Scoutcraft can teach Citizenship, so we enforce the Family Life and Citizenship Merit Badges.

 

We don't really believe that Scoutcraft can teach Character, so we enforce Scout Spirit and Boards of Review.

 

Kudu

 

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>>If Leadership was not required for Advancement it would eliminate the constant turnover which undermines the Patrol Method with its natural youth-youth skill training.

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For the boys that avoid a campout that has a five mile hike planned, there is nothing else I can do for them to advance. They will never get past Tenderfoot unless they meet requirement 1b. And Eamonn, saying that the five mile hike is in preparation for Philmont makes no sense to 10 or 11 year olds who are not eligible for high adventure yet.

 

The fact that a boy did go on a five mile hike does not mean we taught him fitness - we only EXPOSED him to it. He may have liked it and may decide to go on more hikes. He may decide to never go on a hike again and spend the rest of his boyhood sitting on a couch playing video games.

 

So, part of advancement to First Class represents a set of activities a scout has been exposed to. Another part is the skills, like knot tying, that they have to show that they know how to do - at least once. The rest are the "fake requirements" as Kudo said.

 

It's not that hard for a scout to get to First Class, when you think about it. It's not a life-changing experience for a boy. It's meant to get his feet wet and prepare him for the higher ranks, where the real fitness, character and citizenship learning happens.

 

Some really take their rank to heart and will put forth more effort. Others don't and will never get past Tenderfoot because they hate to hike. Still, it's not a good reason to away with advancment.

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>>It's not a life-changing experience for a boy. It's meant to get his feet wet and prepare him for the higher ranks, where the real fitness, character and citizenship learning happens.

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I was not able to go on our last campout. A backpacking trip. It was not sold as a backpacking trip because we have some guys that would have backed out just from the word. Yes, they carried their gear on backpacks but only had to hike about a mile and half in to the camp site. The plan for the weekend was for nature hiking (walk) to identify plants and animals for those guys needing those requirements for 2nd and 1st class.

 

The nature hikes happened, but the plan for identifications did not. I admit I was dismayed to find that out when husband returned and told me about the weekend. But, after husband told me about all the things that did happen on that weekend, I realized I had just momentarily reverted back to "advancement mode" rather than "growth mode." Yes, I'll own up, sometimes I still worry about whether our guys are advancing and if they may drop out because they aren't.

 

We had guys on that trip that had sworn before then that they would never go hiking again, but absolutely loved this trip. Guys on that trip are the ones that now want to take a backpack trip on their own - without adults.

 

Knots for advancement? One activity my husband and SPL planned as a surprise for our guys. On that trip, each Scout was required to carry on his pack an 8 foot length of rope. While hiking, they "surprise" came across a ravine - about 30 feet down. "Oh my gosh" we have to get down into that ravine How are we going to do it?"

 

They tied their lengths of rope together making a commando rope and worked their way down the ravine. Then, back up the same way. Boys loved that so much they kept wanting to do it over and over.

 

It's been a few years since older son earned his Eagle. It was 2001 and he was 14 1/2 and a singularly motivated individual toward that goal. He would say though that he was never really required to KNOW what he had done, just got checked marked off along the way. I'll admit too that I didn't know any better back then.

 

Younger son declared when joining the troop that he would be an Eagle earlier than his brother. Younger son is now is 14 1/2 and missed his goal. Too bad. Younger son is Life, all the Eagle-required merit badges yet to earn, project not even in the foreground of his thinking. He's thinking about running for SPL. He's thinking about the Scouts he'd like to see in the other PORs. He's thinking about the sans-adults backpacking trip in the Spring he wants to take with his fellow older Scouts.

 

As younger son reminds me, he's enjoying the journey and he'll get around to that advancement stuff for Eagle when it's time.

 

Do away with advancement? I don't think that's the answer.

 

I think there will always be boys that need hard measurable goals - something written in a book (my older son is an example). Others will follow a more intangible measure (younger son fits here). Both may reach the same destination, but on their own time.

 

Provide a program that ignites the spirit in our boys, keep the idea that all the methods require equal attention, remind our parents frequently that Boy Scouting is not a camping/social club, remind our adult leaders that the boys learn a lot from each other - even if they appear as not being very productive, remember always that Eagle Scout is an INDIVIDUAL Scout's achievement, not to mention any of the ranks that precede it.

 

Side note: Even though older son earned (made) Eagle at 14 1/2 and has continued in Scouting to this day (he's 20 and just was honored with OA Vigil membership), he does not credit his continued activity to his Troop or his leaders at that time. His continued activity was because of OA and working at our Council's summer camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AvidSM,

Your right Philmont was a very bad choice.

I did post:

"Selling a hike to pass 1b is one thing, selling a hike to prepare for Philmont (Or some other special event that they want to do) might get better results."

Here is how I see it.

Right now 60% of the Scouts have in their own way said that they are not keen on going on a hike.

As of right now they don't seem to be concerned too much about passing requirement 1b.

Now take a look at your options:

1/ Do nothing.

Who knows maybe they will have a change of heart.

2/ Make a big fuss.

Let them know that you are upset that they have not passed requirement 1b and how without passing requirement 1b they are never going to advance and will never make Eagle Scout.

3/Make a big fuss of the Scouts that did go.

Award them the soon to be much sought after Award of the golden boot, or dig into Troop funds and present each of them with a compass.

4/Working through the PLC come up with an event that will either include a hike that meets requirement 1b or an event where a training hike is needed.

5/ Take a long hard look at requirement 1b and see what can be done to make it seem like more fun. Look at it as if you were their age. You are an Imaginear. Is there a way that they can get really wet, muddy, dirty, can it be done at night? Can it be a Hero Hike where they save the planet?

Eamonn.

 

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Interesting discussion here.

 

This is actually one of the reasons SpiralScouts avoids the whole concept of "advancement" - as it's set up within Boy Scouts, "making rank" is too often the goal, rather than learning the things that make up that rank. Not that the idea of advancement is bad, just that it sometimes encourages *adults* to forget that this is supposed to be about learning things through fun, and that causes us to make it not seem like fun to them, you know?

 

In my experience, telling young people that they're learning to safely build and maintain a fire so they can use it to cook dinner (or, more important to many of them, just so they can say they're allowed to tend the fire, which means they're allowed to *play* with fire) makes it much more interesting than, "do this so you can get this badge," or "you need this award to earn X rank."

 

Not that we don't have some who are very motivated by badges - one scout from my troop who recently moved out of state completed all his FireFly level badges in the 2 years before he aged out into SpiralScouts and a whole new set of badges, because he didn't want to *miss* anything. His new scout leader tells me a year later he's well on his way to completing all those badges long before he ages out to be a PathFinder. But he's doing it because it's fun, not because his parents are pushing him.

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Can't believe what I am reading in a lot of these posts! If you ask most kids these days "Would you rather play X-Box or work on a Merit Badge?" 9 out of 10 would opt for the video game! Since when is it wrong to ask our children to broaden there knowledge and skills? Since when is it wrong to teach them to set goals and work towards them?

 

Thirty years ago my father "pushed" me to get Eagle, and looking back at it I'm glad he was there doing it!! He "made" me be and a PL and later SPL and now I know I am a better leader at work and in my community for it. Look at my second statement. Does a 11-16 year old boy really know what will be good for him in the future? They may not always like working on advancment or a certain MB, but while they are doing it they are learning, whether they want to or not they are learning and will be a more well rounded adult for it.(This message has been edited by Herms)

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Eamonn says - "Yes I said do away with advancement!!"

 

The Advancement Chairman in me must ask...

 

What? And put me out of a job?!?!?!

 

Now, seriously, There are so many wonderful things that happen because of, or through using the Advancement Method. I think it would be a terrible shame to elliminate Advancement, or to change it significantly from the model as it stands now. At least a couple of the other Methods - Out Door Program, Patrol Method, Adult Association - rely heavily on a young man desiring advancement. Without Advancement, why would any Scout sit through tedious conversations with MB Counselors to help them develop a sense for personal management, or why it is fathers are important in a family? Or why some people feel the civic duty strongly enough that they willingly put on our country's uniform and risk their life? Or why the most important hard skill a Scout will learn in Scouting may be 1st aid? Why would any kid want to do that?

 

I think I understand your point, Eamonn. Advancement might be one of the obstacles keeping hoards of boys from wanting to stay with Scouting. I'm not so sure I agree with that, but I can see your rationale. And knowing you have had much experience at the District and Council levels, I am sure you are in tune with the numbers game - the need for Districts and councils to keep their rolls elevated.

 

But I have a different spin. I much prefer to think that the advancement method helps keep those boys who really want to be here - the ones that share our Goals, even if they don't know it - from wondering off to some other activity. Sure, Advancement is an obstacle. And some boys don't get the chance to see the obstacle as an opportunity. Often that is because adults make the Method into someting it was not intended to be.

 

I like OGE's comment. Maybe it isn't Advancement we should get rid of. Maybe it should be those of us who mis-apply the Method?

 

I feel your frustration, Eamonn. On a more localized level, we are feeling it in our unit. But that's when it becomes my job as Advancement Chair to make sure the program is doing what it is intended to do - Develop young men of good character.

 

Mark

 

 

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